Your Winter Veggie Harvest: Good for You...But How Long Will It Stay Good?
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Your Winter Veggie Harvest: Good for You...But How Long Will It Stay Good?

By Tamara Galbraith (TexasTam)March 1, 2009
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Wondering what to do with your bountiful and nutrient-rich winter veggie harvest? Many vegetables will keep longer than you probably thought possible, given the correct storage method.

Gardening picture

So you've carefully pulled up all the carrots and beets, plucked all the Brussels sprouts and felled all the tiny trees of broccoli. Now what?

The simple answer is, of course, to just cook and eat them. But what if you've got a large amount of veggies, or just want to extend them for awhile? Here's a look at the most common winter crops, along with their culinary uses, vitamin content and storage options.

Non-Leafy and Non-Root Cole (Mustard Family) Crops

All members of the Brassicaceae (or Cruciferous) family are good sources of vitamins A and C, as well as calcium, potassium and iron. Recent research suggests a diet rich in these crops can reduce the risks of cancer and heart disease.

Cabbage is the most cold-hardy of the group and will keep the longest if stored correctly.

Root Crops

Root crops are generally easy to grow, requiring only loose, crumbly soil and sunshine to do well. They also keep the longest of all vegetables if given the right storage conditions. Consider yourself lucky if you have a root cellar or a cold, dark basement with high humidity. In cool climates, makeshift root cellars can be built into the side of a hill or in a box partially submerged in the ground.

Read Sharon Brown's article on Dave's Garden about Root Cellars

An extensive article about building and managing your own Root Cellar, from Hobbyfarms.com

Leafy Crops

You buy a bag of lettuce and it turns brown within three days, right? Welcome to the drawback of storing leafy veggies. Due to their high water content, leafy crops - with the exception of cabbage -- go bad the quickest. Thick, crinkly-type spinach is also more resistant to spoilage, but can develop a rubbery taste after awhile.

If you buy full heads of lettuce, try wrapping a dry paper towel around the head before storing in a plastic bag and placing it in the produce drawer in your fridge.

 

Vegetable Name Family Crop Type Vitamins Preservation Storage
BeetRootRoot and Leafy GreensBeet roots and leaves contain calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin A and vitamin KLeave on tail and 1/2" of stem. Boil 30-45 minutes, remove skins, slice or cube, then freeze. Can also be pickled or canned.Cold (32°F), moist conditions (95% RH) for three to five months with greens removed, greens may be stored as well
Bok Choy/Chinese CabbageColeCooking greensExcellent source of folate and vitamins A and CCool, moist storage is best (may be canned)Cold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions; 10 to 14 days
BroccoliColeFruiting/FloweringAn excellent source of vitamins K, C, and A, as well as folate and fiber. A good source of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and the vitamins B6 and E.Wash and trim off leaves, boil 3 minutes or steam 5 minutes, seal and freeze in plastic bag, leaving no headroomCold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions for 10 to 14 days
Brussels SproutsColeFruiting/FloweringVitamins C, K, and A, folate, manganese, dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin B6 and thiamin (vitamin B1), omega-3 fatty acids, iron, phosphorous, protein, magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin E, copper and calcium.Salt soak, wash, trim outer leaves, boil 3-5 minutes, seal and freeze in plastic bag, leaving no headroom.Cold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions for three to five weeks
CabbageColeLeafyExcellent source of vitamins A and C. Also contains anti-cancer propertiesCan as sauerkraut, or chop into wedges and freeze for use in soups.Cold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions for four to five months. Store separately from root crops
CarrotsRootRootVitamin A, C, potassium, calciumRemove tops, wash and peel. Boil baby carrots whole 5 minutes. Cut mature carrots into slices or strips and boil 2 minutes. Seal and freeze in plastic bags.Cold (32°F), moist (95% RH) conditions. Baby carrots will last two to four weeks, mature carrots four to five months
CauliflowerColeFruiting/FloweringVitamin C, folate and dietary fiber. Also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.Break into florets and boil in salt water for 3 minutes before freezing, or pickleCold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions for two to four weeks.
ChardColeLeafy GreensSignificant amounts of vitamins A and C, ironFreezeCold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions; 10 to 14 days
CollardColeCooking greensSignificant amounts of vitamins A and C, ironCool, moist storage is best (may be canned)Cold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions; 10 to 14 days
GarlicAlliumRoot/BulbHigh in potassium, phosphorus, Vitamin C and A. Thought to perhaps lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure if eaten raw.Do not store raw garlic in oil. Use a ceramic or terra cotta "garlic keeper". Freezing is possible, but the flavor will be greatly diminished.Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Do not refrigerate. 
KaleColeCooking greensvitamin A, vitamin C and manganese. Lots of dietary fiber, copper, calcium, vitamin B6 and potassiumCool, moist storage is best (may be canned)Cold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions; 10 to 14 days
KohlrabiColeRootHigh in Vitamin C and potassiumFreezeStore in a cool basement
LettuceLeafLeafy GreensNon-iceberg types of lettuce provide potassium, calcium, phosphorus, ironCool, moist refrigeration; canning and freezing not recommendedCold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions for two to three weeks
MustardColeCooking greensExcellent source of Vitamins E, C and ACool, moist storage is best (may be canned)Cold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions; 10 to 14 days
OnionsAlliumRoot/BulbVitamin C, potassium, phosphorusWash, peel and chop raw, fully mature onions into about 1/2" pieces. There is no need to blanch onions. Bag and freeze flat.Store at near freezing, but with low humidity to discourage neck rot
ParsnipsRootRootExcellent source of vitamin C, potassium, fiber, folic acid, pantothenic acid, copper, and manganeseCut off tops, wash, peel and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Water-blanch for 2 minutes or steam-blanch for 3 minutes. Cool promptly and drain. Turnips and parsnips can also be fully cooked before freezing. Pack blanched or fully cooked turnips or parsnips in suitable containers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Seal and freeze. Cold (32°F), moist (95% RH) conditions, two to six months
RadishesColeRootvitamin C, potassium, magnesium, folate, sulphur, iron and iodineFreezing not recommended. Pickle or use in relishes insteadSpring radishes - cool (32°F), moist (95% RH) conditions, three to four weeks; winter radishes - cool (32°F), moist (95% RH) conditions, two to four months
SpinachLeafLeafy GreensHuge source of Vitamin AWash thoroughly in an ice water bath to remove sand and insects. Rinse. Cut off woody stems and remove damaged leaves. Leaves can be left whole or chopped coarsely. Water-blanch spinach for 2 minutes. Cool promptly and drain. Transfer cooled, blanched greens into suitable containers. Seal, label and freeze. Leave 1/2 inch headspace. Cold (32°F), moist (95% relative humidity) conditions 10 to 14 days
Turnips/RutabagasColeRootTurnip greens are an amazing source of vitamin A (through their concentration of carotenoids such as beta-carotene), vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B6, folate, copper, calcium, and dietary fiber. Cut off tops, wash, peel and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Water-blanch for 2 minutes or steam-blanch for 3 minutes. Cool promptly and drain. Turnips and parsnips can also be fully cooked before freezing. Pack blanched or fully cooked turnips or parsnips in suitable containers, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Seal and freeze. Cold (32°F), moist (95% RH) conditions, two to four months. Rutabagas can be dipped in wax to reduce shriveling.
Winter Squash (including Pumpkins)CucurbitFruiting/Floweringvitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and fiber, folate and thiamin.Cooked squash freezes well. Pack into freezer containers or freezer bags leaving 1/2 inch head space and freeze for up to one year. Canning is not recommended unless the squash is cut into cubes. Mashed squash is too dense and heat penetration is uneven. Because spaghetti squash does not stay cubed on heating, it should be frozen instead of canned. After harvesting, cure winter squash (except for the acorn types) at room temperature of 70-80F and a relative humidity of 80-85%. Curing helps to harden their skins and heal any cuts and scratches. Do not cure acorn squash. After curing, store winter squash in a cool, dry, well-ventilated location. Storage temperatures should be 50F. Do not store squash near apples, pears, or other ripening fruit. When properly cured and stored, the storage lives of acorn, butternut, and hubbard squash are approximately 5 to 8 weeks, 2 to 3 months, and 5 to 6 months, respectively.


  About Tamara Galbraith  
Tamara GalbraithI am an avid organic gardener and former Master Gardener for Collin County, Texas. I enjoy growing nearly everything, from vegetables to herbs to tropicals. Lately I have been converting the flower beds in my Zone 8 home to all Texas natives. In my non-gardening spare time, I enjoy cooking, reading, birdwatching or hugging on either my sweet English hubby or our Golden Retriever, Monty.

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Discussion about this article:
SubjectTopic StarterRepliesViewsLast Post
Winter gardening & it's produce Skyflower1 2 14 Mar 30, 2009 3:24 PM
Veggie Storage wvgardendeva 0 10 Mar 2, 2009 4:52 PM
Thanks - really nice article Dea 2 13 Mar 2, 2009 4:08 PM
Rhutabagas grits74571 1 19 Mar 1, 2009 7:24 PM
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